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How Iteration Works

Iteration is the type of name resolution used between DNS clients and servers when the following conditions are in effect:

  • The client requests the use of recursion, but recursion is disabled on the DNS server.

  • The client does not request the use of recursion when querying the DNS server.

An iterative request from a client tells the DNS server that the client expects the best answer the DNS server can provide immediately, without contacting other DNS servers.

When iteration is used, a DNS server answers a client based on its own specific knowledge about the namespace with regard to the names data being queried. For example, if a DNS server on your intranet receives a query from a local client for "www.microsoft.com", it might return an answer from its names cache. If the queried name is not currently stored in the names cache of the server, the server might respond by providing a referral—that is, a list of NS and A resource records for other DNS servers that are closer to the name queried by the client.

When a referral is made, the DNS client assumes responsibility to continue making iterative queries to other configured DNS servers to resolve the name. For example, in the most involved case, the DNS client might expand its search as far as the root domain servers on the Internet in an effort to locate the DNS servers that are authoritative for the "com" domain. Once it contacts the Internet root servers, it can be given further iterative responses from these DNS servers that point to actual Internet DNS servers for the "microsoft.com" domain. When the client is provided records for these DNS servers, it can send another iterative query to the external Microsoft DNS servers on the Internet, which can respond with a definitive and authoritative answer.

When iteration is used, a DNS server can further assist in a name query resolution beyond giving its own best answer back to the client. For most iterative queries, a client uses its locally configured list of DNS servers to contact other name servers throughout the DNS namespace if its primary DNS server cannot resolve the query.

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